Today’s original story was on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s comparison of homosexuality to alcoholism; a comment he made at a forum in San Francisco. Rather than just cover reaction to the quote, which would be decidedly obvious and not all that enlightening, the plan was to go further – to explore the business and financial consequences of the statement. That was a germane angle, because the whole point of Perry’s visit was to highlight what he thought were the advantages of doing business in Texas as opposed to California.
So I called several public relations experts to get their analysis of Perry’s mistake. Only one called back, and he was in Santa Clara, a full hour south of San Francisco. After waiting about 30 minutes, I decided it would be better to take the time to drive there and back for a sure interview, rather than continue to wait for a closer interview that might not come.
These are the logistical decisions reporters have to make all day long, every day. Interestingly, they don’t really have much to do with journalism, they’re more about the mechanics of getting the job done on time, which, however, does allow your journalism to make it on the air.
Once in Santa Clara, the interview went well, right up until the pile driver kicked in at the construction project across the street. I let the subject finish answering the question we were on, but then decided to move inside. Continuing might have worked, but not worth the risk. It’s sometimes uncomfortable to ask interview subjects to stop or move or start over, but that always beats the alternative, which is poor audio or video. Tempting as it is to believe, video and audio never miraculously improve when you get back to the station. Either you get it right in the field, or you don’t.
After all that, my story changed and I instead covered the decision by the electric carmaker Tesla to share its battery patents. This required driving even farther south to Los Gatos for an interview and then east to Fremont for a live shot in front of the Tesla factory.
I found myself getting back into the groove of enjoying the challenge of making deadline, rather than dreading it and wondering if I’d make it. I think there’s a certain endurance one builds up to dealing with the deadline stress, and after nearly a week, I’m getting into stress shape. Beginning reporters should take comfort in knowing it does get easier.
- Try to enlighten the viewers by telling them something they don’t know. The obvious story is often easier, but not necessarily better.
- When it comes to interviews, certain and far beats maybe and close. These are decisions reporters learn to make with experience, but having something for sure gives you something to build your day around.
- Reporters must make sure their video and audio is good as it’s being recorded in the field, no matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable it is to ask a subject for a do over. “If you didn’t get it, you didn’t get it.”